One of the more beautiful coins ever produced by the U.S. Mint features the face of a living Idahoan. U.S. coins don’t honor living individuals, so you might have done a double take when you read that. The coin honors Sacagawea, the Shoshone woman who was such an important part of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
If you spell her name “Sacajawea,” and pronounce it with a soft “J,” you’re not alone. Many Idahoans learned to spell and pronounce it that way growing up. Spelling it with a “G” and using the hard “G” sound to pronounce it seems a little more common nowadays.
The woman depicted on the coin is an artist’s rendition of Sacagawea. The artist, Glenna Maxey Goodacre, used Idahoan and Shoshone-Bannock Tribal Member Randy‘L Teton as a model for the coin. Goodacre is also known for designing the Vietnam Women’s Memorial in Washington, DC.
Randy’L He-dow Teton was chosen as the model for the coin by Goodacre when the artist visited the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, where Teton’s mother was employed. Randy’L was going to school at the University of New Mexico at the time.
A graduate of Blackfoot High School, Randy’L Teton worked for many years as the public affairs manager of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. She has recently published a graphic novel about Sacajawea.
Beautiful though the “golden dollar” is, it’s rare to see one in circulation today. You can get them easily enough, but people simply don’t carry coins the way they once did.